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The Legend of Johnny White
L O J W
By Darryl C Johnson
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Darryl C Johnson
All rights reserved.
It's a beautiful still day in the middle of June. Grass and trees seem to be at they're greenest peak. Just as a stage light the sun sets perfectly on this small town. Insects rhythmic like harmony beckoned the only sound heard for miles. Quiet days weren't unfamiliar to this unusually small populated town. So small you'll need a magnifying glass to see it on and map. It was just the way towners prefer it. Hard working town and still close to its old tradition and heritage. Community leaders were available and approachable by all. Store owners know their customers as well as the customers knew them. This town was one of a repetitive one; days were much of the same. Just as every night brought darkest.
Town's elementary school bell rings breaking the silence of quiet day. Sound of the bell no different than the way it sounded months before; although this would be the last time students would hear the school bell until next the school semester. Far as the weather, summer had already begun, but for students the last day of school was the first of summer.
The school doors open, kids begin pouring out by the hundred. Certain kids head to their school buses and form a single line to board. There were some parents that didn't take kind to their children traveling to school by bus; and the last day of school didn't warrant a change. A hand full of kids either walk home or road their bikes. Johnny White and his friend Roger were among the kids that journey by bike to and from school.
Johnny had a clear knowledge of how to get home; he even knew a few short cuts. It just was more fun riding along the school bus. The two of them made the ride home a race. As soon as the bus departs he and his friend did. Kids on the bus would pull down their windows to watch. Some of the kids thought it was out right crazy what Johnny did, while others thought it was cool.
Today Johnny didn't want to wait for the bus to depart once he unlock his bike from the bike rack he gave his friend the stare. There were no words needed or use. His friend was familiar with the look and he knew it meant the race home was on!
Johnny jumps off the sidewalk, his friend followed, following Johnny was something he'd gotten accustomed to. Johnny was just such a good rider. They'd talked about Johnny maybe being in X-games and the way that Johnny road it was starting to feel realistic. In the street, out the street, in front and behind one another forming what appears to be figure eights!
Arriving on the block where the two of them live, they separate going to each of their homes. Besides the ride to and from school these two boys spent most of their time with one another. Their moms would talk over tea and pie about how inseparable they were. Catching butterflies and lightening bugs, building a club house, staying nights over one another house, you name it, they did it together.
Almost at his lawn he yells back for Johnny to check in.
"I'm dropping my things off home then I'm coming over".
Johnny noticing his mother car in the drive way, he hadn't heard what his friend said. Johnny seeing his mother car wasn't out of the norm but the time of day unusual. Drops his bike on the first step of the porch and runs up and into the house.
He was so eager to see his mother and too concern for why she was home at this time. Again "Mom, Mom" and again no response. He walks through the living room and dining room to find his mother in the kitchen at the table reading papers.
"Hey mom you didn't hear me calling you?" In a soft voice she replies, "Johnny what did I say about shoes in my house?" He sighs and takes them off leaving dirt in the place where he stands, places his sneakers by the door and sweeps up the dirt.
He feels a stare but she doesn't say anything. He reaches into his back pocket and pulls out his report card. Good grades were a must under Johnny's mother roof. He could only imagine how much money or what kind of gift his mother would give him this time; she always did for having favorable grades. His mother extends her arms and hugs Johnny, he's thinking 'where's the money'?
She says, "Son I don't know how I would have survived without you".
He just wanted some money, maybe a new game or something; but something was bothering his mother.
"So mom what's all these papers?"
"Not right now, she replies. But I really need to talk to somebody".
He figure when she was ready she'd talk and when she really needs someone she'd call Johnny's grandfather. He didn't see how he could help ... he lives in a totally different town. But whatever it was he told his mother always seem to work.
"Ding dong" Johnny racing to the door. As he's opening the door from the kitchen he hears his mother say, "What did I tell you about running through this house"?
At the door is his friend tossing a football into the air. Johnny was great on a bike but lack any skill at football or basketball.
"Dude come on, today's the day"
Johnny knew what he meant and ran and got his sneakers. He could hear his mother "Johnny", but before she could finish he says, "sorry." Johnny runs out of the house closed the door on his mother's last words.
Not only did he have his sneakers, but he also has a bag which his friend couldn't help but to ask what's in it. There was some over-protective parents that insisted and made sure their kids had on a bike helmets. There were no one that wore knee and elbow pads and as new as Johnny's look you could tell he didn't either. Johnny says,
"These are from two Christmases ago, if we are about to do something no one has, I think this is the perfect time to put these to use".
Roger says, hey dude I agree, better safe than sorry"!
They had everything they needed. The two of them take to their bikes, Johnny's mother opened the house door; "Johnny be home by supper or none at all".
"Whatever" he says under his breath, knowing his mother said things like that before. No this no that, if you don't clean no dinner, and she never stood by any of it.
Just as their set to start they're journey. Johnny realizes he doesn't have his lucky gloves. Remembering them being on the porch he returns to collect them. Johnny friend had gotten off his bike as well. Distance between he and Johnny nearly fifteen feet. Football along his side, resembling an old western cowboy movie; Johnny knows exactly what about to happen.
He screams "Hey Roger you ready pilgrim? Roger always being Clint Eastwood; "ready"?
Johnny replies "I'm always ready".
"Well let's do it you old bag of dirt".
Roger sends the football spiraling through the air. Spinning and rotation of the ball is beautiful and a sight to see. Before the football reaches Johnny, Roger yells "like Bret Favre". Football zipping through the air but seems as if it were in slow motion. Johnny put his arms out, stands in the trajectory where the ball would land. Braces his self as the ball is coming directly toward him, catching this pass would make Roger throw look so much better. It was here the moment of truth ... Johnny drops the catch ... Roger immediately drops his shoulders in disbelief.
"Hey Johnny, that was a good pass dude! You couldn't catch a cold in the middle of winter in Wisconsin".
Roger was dead on; he did throw a pretty pass, and Johnny just as other times dropped the football. Johnny sucks at mostly all sports baseball, football, almost every sport in which requires a ball of some sort. His thing was solely bikes, put Johnny on a bike and was magic.
For the next few minutes the boys portrayed different football icons, Roger with his big arm always dub himself after Bret Favre. There were colleges contacting Rogers mother and he hadn't stepped foot onto a high school football field yet. Johnny knew football was something that would just find its way into Rogers's life. Roger didn't quite share the same feeling. Yes he knew his arm was stronger than most kids in town, but it was a task getting past what Roger saw. A mother who stood about 5'2" and a father that was even shorter than her. Roger called his family the family of dwarfs. It was sort of funny seeing the three of them standing together and them being fairly close in height.
Roger knew height played a valuable part in being a quarter back. Little league or High school; small, quick guys could flourish but to make it to the next level of college or the NFL, height was mandatory. Offensive lineman towered in height from 6'1" to 6'6" and the tight ends also shared some height and body mass. Quarter backs job is harder than it looks it's not just throwing the football you also have to see over the line and oncoming defensive players. Roger had doubt he'd get any taller than his mother and playing at the next level for him was imaginable. Much like Roger, Johnny believes his height too wouldn't amount to much. He isn't aware to the eight his father had. Him standing below the height for his age at thirteen. Johnny too had a much slimmer fit than the average kid. It was fair to say you could call him funny looking; brownish blonde hair and blue eyes. Johnny has the look of a star kid for clothes commercials. Hardly matter though; he wasn't blessed with talent as Roger. People just act different towards Roger. Johnny listens as Roger talk although he know it's just talk.
Johnny was more than confident in him and he knows Roger possessed enough talent for the both of them. Roger down-played it because he knew Johnny wasn't much of a player. Johnny stressed to Roger height wouldn't be a problem knowing that Rogers brother was tall and played baseball. Roger and his brother didn't share the same mother so he figures they wouldn't possess the same height.
Though the two boys are the best of friends their talents polar opposite. Roger sports, Johnny bikes, there weren't many similarities with them except they enjoy each other's company. Small thing such as just playing catch was a task. Roger would tell Johnny "back up, back up and he do so, Roger would send a rocket for a pass 50 feet away to Johnny. It was almost exercise for Johnny running close and backing up. He would attempt to throw to where Roger stood but the football would hit the ground or skip and still would land short of Roger.
Roger thought Johnny passes resembles summers at the lake skipping rocks on the pond. Johnny run close throw to Roger and immediately back to get ready for Rogers pass.
Another thing they talk about was a hill in the town, close to none of the kids wanted or tries to ride down. There were stories of broken limbs (arms, legs) one story scared all the kids, it was said that one kid actually died. Johnny and Roger believe the story like most kids in their town. And they too call the monstrous hill "DEAD MAN HILL"!
This hill had no clear path to just go through. A plain of rock and trees just over every surface almost no flat terrace. It was bad a very bad hill and reason why there were "DO NOT ENTER" signs around it.
Playing catch was done. Johnny collected his helmet and protective pads. Roger throws his football onto Johnny's porch and picks up his bike. The ride to the outer limit of the town had begun. There weren't many kids that venture out that far. Almost close to none and for Johnny and Roger this wasn't the first time. Neither of their mothers knew, Johnny once lied to his mother, but he knew he had to about this. There was no way his mother would have permitted it.
After some time of riding they reach where the street stops and the dirt path began. Railroad tracks divide the dirt from the street, which town people call the west side and where Johnny and Roger reside, the eastside. Some way after the tracks was the hills, they were near their destination.
They reach a gate. This gate was old very old, put there to assure no one trespasses but the years bad weather had put some tear on it. "DO NOT ENTER" signs dress the gate like flyers for an up and coming dance. Hardly difficult on either of the boys reading they could read and understand. And what they understood was no sign; no gate was getting in their way. Roger pushes the gate and it went smashing down on the ground. He looks at his hand questioning his strength, Johnny notice there weren't a lock or hinges that held the gate up it just was leaning. Pushing their bikes past the gate they could see what look like their town. Neither had seen their town like this before it was so small. Johnny put on his helmet, knee and elbow pads and pushes his bike to the edge of the hill.
Roger beside him "let's go Johnny, let's go"! Johnny closes his eyes and could hear the cheers and chants; he only had to go down the hill and escape injury free. He picture being embraced and the things people would say if he achieved the unachievable. Quickly those thoughts were replaced by him falling to his death, kids saying here rest the body of Johnny and the new name of the hill "Johnny Death" or "Where Johnny Die" Maybe it wasn't that important for Johnny to be the one that conquered the hills. Besides if he died he wouldn't be able to celebrate anyway. He pull back, Roger being confused "hey what are you doing"?
"Look Roger, we have all summer to do this it shouldn't be rushed".
"A Johnny, a Johnny", Roger says in a low disappointed voice "when opportunity comes knocking you have to answer dude".
"I agree but the only thing I hear knocking are my knees", Johnny says. It wasn't going the way Roger plan. He thought by now he'd see Johnny racing down the hill. But Johnny was right they did have the entire summer vacation. At that moment Roger wasn't upset because now he was looking forward to the next time. Johnny will have time to get over the fear he had. The two of them cross the gate, once on the other side Roger picks up the gate and leans it against the fence like it was prior to entering.
Roger says, "Johnny before a kid that doesn't deserve it makes it down this hill, my buddy you will"!
During the winter the night comes so fast seems like by 5:00PM it's already dark but in the summer it seems like the night never came. They both were hungry but didn't quite know what time it was but figure being hungry was enough to start heading home.
Wasn't much to say on the way home. When they reach their homes Johnny was thinking maybe scouring for a smaller hill would be best. The thought of DEAD MAN HILL drop was unforgettable. Roger a bit disappointed but confident the task they so long talk about would be executed.
"So tomorrow then Johnny? That hill is no match for you "!
"Ok, ok whatever you say man" Johnny responds. Leaning his bike alongside of his home, this time remembering to remove his shoes; leaving his shoes, helmet and pads in a closet under the stairwell. The smell of the house intensifies the grumbling of Johnny's stomach. Chicken and cake, Johnny believed his mother made the best cake in Mt. Union. Mt. Union was a neighborhood to Wisconsin. Wisconsin hosted the Green Bay Packers. Mount Union was a small town in number but big when it came to sports. Their most popular sport was football; Packers being so close in distance Mt. Union dubbed them as their home team. It was safe to say the Mt. Union faithful's had picked a good team, the Packers were winners!
Game days; Johnny's mother would cook a feast big enough to feed the town. Dinners as the ones she made couldn't be completed without baking a cake. Johnny could barely wait for either of the two; the game or the cake. Sundays and sometimes Monday the town would be as empty as a deserted island. Elderly and young towns people alike bunch in front of their TV's, like a fire place in middle of the winter. It was almost as if time stop and the only thing that were still in motion were the Green Bay Packers and whomever they were playing against. Being complete fans didn't stop with the NFL; High School stadiums were packed for the Friday Night lights. Johnny plate sat on the table covered with a paper towel he notices his mother had already cut him a healthy sized slice of cake. His mother not being there were a bit unusual but he was hungry and decided to eat. Eating all that food, he felt like he'd gained some weight looking down at his stomach poke out. Washing dishes were something he always try to avoid, but to show his mother appreciation for such a good meal he figure he do so. Being in school he'd miss much of his favorite shows and it seemed like now was the time to catch up.
Excerpted from The Legend of Johnny White by Darryl C Johnson. Copyright © 2014 Darryl C Johnson. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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